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UK-based public relations and marketing agency Bell Pottinger has been expelled from an industry trade body after its business with the Gupta-owned Oakbay Capital was found to bring “PR and communications industry into disrepute”.
This comes after a complaint lodged by the Democratic Alliance in July prompted an investigation by the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA). The news also signals Bell Pottinger’s removal from the PRCA for at least five years.
PRCA announces expulsion of Bell Pottinger | Newsroom PRCA https://t.co/uuJsqyOJav
— PRCA (@PRCA_UK) September 4, 2017
“Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions, and it has received the harshest possible sanctions,” explains Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA in a statement.
“The PRCA has never before passed down such a damning indictment of an agency’s behaviour.
“This outcome reflects the huge importance that the PRCA places on the protection of ethical standards in the business of PR and communications.”
‘Bell Pottinger has brought the PR and communications industry into disrepute with its actions’
After the news broke #BellPottinger began trending across South Africa, with many applauding the PRCA’s decision.
The Brits are commended for their astute and moral high ground irt. the #BellPottinger matter. Bravo.
— Beloved (@thabilelr) September 5, 2017
We did it fellow South Africans, we got #BellPottinger kicked out of UK PR body. We did it because we united even more than fell apart.❤️
— NtuthukoMdima🌟 (@Dclantis) September 4, 2017
Some questioned the verdict itself, noting that South Africa’s issues of racial relations run much deeper than a PR company.
So we’re suppose to believe that the problems in S.A were caused by #BellPottinger ? They jst exploited an issue that we’ve bn supressing
— Live Life (@Makinta_T) September 5, 2017
If someone walks up to me & says #BellPottinger caused race divisions in RSA, I will punch you in your throat and burst u out of your bubble
— Zanele (@zane0590) September 5, 2017
But others called into question the company that hired Bell Pottinger, namely the Gupta’s Oakbay.
“Consequences of racially divisive diversion campaign are dire for #BellPottinger. What should be the consequences for those that hired them?” former SA public protector Thuli Madonsela tweets.
Consequences of racially divisive diversion campaign are dire for #BellPottinger. What should be the consequences for those that hired them?
— Adv Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) September 4, 2017
#BellPottinger is guilty. So what about their Client ? Oakbay is the one who signed off on the campaign.
— Steyn (@steyn_riaan) September 5, 2017
One of the key issues to remember about #bellpottinger is that they were hired by a private company to do work for political organizations
— Chris Vick (@chrisvick3) September 4, 2017
#BellPottinger why have the people who have hired them in S.A not been punished
— Dean (@Deanslv) September 5, 2017
The people responsible for hiring #BellPottinger must be taken to task.
— Elias Nkonyana (@VusinkEli) September 4, 2017
Bell Pottinger’s founder Lord Tim Bell called for changes in the company’s leadership structure.
— Katy Katopodis (@KatyKatopodis) September 4, 2017
He also left his phone on during a Newsnight interview, which prompted an entire discussion of its own.
“We’ve had some pretty weird interviews on #newsnight over the years but not many weirder than this one last night,” Newsnight editor Ian Katz tweets.
— Graeme Demianyk (@GraemeDemianyk) September 4, 2017
Additionally, some questioned the strength of South Africa’s resolve to discipline companies and individuals.
— Ailion (@Sailion18) September 5, 2017
While the DA also had a few comments of its own, lead by its spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme.
— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) September 5, 2017
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) September 3, 2017
— Phumzile Van Damme (@zilevandamme) September 5, 2017
The latter tweet also prompted #GuptaGate’s arrival as a trending topic.
As for Bell Pottinger, a new statement was not released. However, the company republished a statement made in July on its homepage.
“We wish to issue a full, unequivocal and absolute apology to anyone impacted. These activities should never have been undertaken. We are deeply sorry that this happened,” Bell Pottinger’s Henderson concludes in the statement.